New Mexico had long utilized a “straight party” voting option until 2012, when Dianna Duran, the first Republican Secretary of State in New Mexico in 80 years, ended the practice behind closed doors with the stroke of her pen. There was no discussion, no public input and no transparency. Duran’s was a clearly partisan decision – with the full support of her political party – that was part of an overall plan to both undermine trust in our election process and to make it more difficult to vote.
Let’s set the record straight: Duran’s decision in 2012 to eliminate straight ticket voting was the real partisan movida.
Then-Secretary Duran – who ultimately resigned in disgrace after committing campaign finance fraud – actively worked to limit voter participation in New Mexico, with the goal of aiding the Republican Party. Duran was a staunch supporter of photo voter ID, which is used to limit the participation of the elderly, students, and people of color, and she falsely suggested that 64,000 people were on New Mexico’s voting rolls illegally. These actions were not independent of each other. Rather, they were part of a series of actions to suppress the vote in New Mexico.
The final piece of Duran’s voter suppression plan was to eliminate straight party voting. When Duran ended the practice, she falsely argued that the change was due to straight party voting’s lack of presence in law. Never mind the fact that other secretaries of state before her utilized the authority granted to them by the state legislature to promulgate and ensure uniformity of the ballot for all voters across the state. Simply put: the decision to end straight ticket voting in New Mexico was a cynical partisan attempt to make it more difficult for New Mexicans to vote.
The myth that straight party voting favors one party over the other is demonstrably false. One recent example is that in the 2010 General Election, which was the last time the straight party feature was used in New Mexico, Susana Martinez was elected Governor and Dianna Duran herself was elected Secretary of State.
Unfortunately, some see practices that ease the voting process or encourage more people to vote as negative. Their goal is to make it as hard to vote as possible because when more people vote they lose. And they’ll do anything to try and convince voters otherwise.
Straight party voting makes it much easier for voters of all stripes to cast a ballot. The reality of straight party voting is that more voters will be able to participate in the voting process, and the process itself will be quicker and easier.
Ballots can be long and complicated, often discouraging some voters – particularly the elderly and those with disabilities – from participating in the process. The straight party option eases the burden on these voters, making the ballot more accessible overall. The practice is also logical from an administrative standpoint because voters spend less time at the voting booth when they choose the straight party option, reducing wait times at polling places.
Further, the notion that straight party unfairly discriminates against minor party or independent candidates is also false. Straight party allows voters to select a majority of candidates of one party, while at the same time allowing a voter to select candidates of a different party in any race they wish.
If Republicans believe that more people voting more easily means electoral defeats for them, then we must be skeptical of their intentions when it comes to any proposed changes to the voting process. Calling the re-institution of straight party voting a partisan power grab is false and ignores the fact that it was an actual partisan power grab by the Republicans that took this option away from the voters of our state in the first place.
I have always advocated for unfettered access to the ballot box for all eligible citizens, and for any practice that simplifies the act of voting. It is important that the government does its best to guarantee equal access to the ballot and to ensure that the ballot itself is not rife with difficulties that prevent a voter from fully exercising their constitutional right.
Eliminating straight party voting undermined trust in election process